Seattle is a city full of Thai restaurants. Virtually every neighborhood has a fair share of them, with residents selecting their local favorites. For years, though, my recommendation has raised eyebrows, as it's located about 20 miles outside of the city. In the town of Issaquah is the somewhat irreverent Noodle Boat, where Mixed Seafood BKK ($13.95) is one of my favorite dishes.
When I see BKK on the menu, I start singing my twisted version of Naughty by Nature's O.P.P.:
You down with BKK (Yeah, you know me) Who's down with BKK (Every last foodie) You down with BKK (Yeah, you know me) Who's down with BKK (All the foodies)
Silly, I know, but I never felt that way after one of the workers told me that her mom named the dish "BKK" because it's silly and fun. (Noodle Boat serves a number of dishes that are hard to find elsewhere, many with similarly creative names: "Queen of Banana" with banana blossoms, "Whatever you Called?" curry with stir-fried peanut sauce, and "Hot Meat," which is pretty self-explanatory.)
"Hot" is apropos to describe Noodle Boat, considering that members of the family-run restaurant travel to Thailand every year to research new dishes and make chile paste to ship back to Seattle. The cooks don't dumb down the spice levels—if you insist, you can order up to 25 stars.
Noodle Boat tackles a dish that I've found at only a couple of other places in the Seattle area: hor mok, traditionally a curried fish custard that's steamed in a banana leaf. Calling theirs BKK (the code for Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok), Noodle Boat offers a choice of meat, fish, and tofu, though they'll rightfully steer you toward mixed seafood ($3.00 upcharge). Their version is stir-fried, rather than steamed, because they say that steaming slows down service in the kitchen.
To make the BKK, Noodle Bar stir-fries red curry paste with coconut milk, adding in shrimp, scallop, and squid. Sugar and fish sauce are mixed in, along with pickled kachai (lesser ginger) strips. At the end, they crack an egg into the curry mixture, then pile everything onto a serving plate that contains steamed Napa cabbage and Thai basil. A splash of coconut milk goes on top, along with thinly sliced makrud lime leaves.
While not as custardy as steamed preparations, the BKK has a pleasing, eggy texture and fantastic flavor. Like many Thai dishes, there are interesting contrasts, like the sweetness of the sugar against the saltiness of the fish sauce. There's a hint of citrus from the lime leaf and anise notes from the Thai basil. I like the tanginess that the kachai, a rhizome, contributes to the dish.
And then there's the fiery spice. The top photo shows a recent order at 4-5 star level (it looks like the egg got stir-fried into the dish more than usual), while the second, redder photo is more where I like be: 10 stars, whose fiery bite is one step closer to Thailand.